Bachelor IV is over. I was hooked from Episode One. Two dozen nubile women from Tampa to Texas, with so much in common - same frock, hairdo, plastic surgeon, same whatever-it-takes aspiration to become Mrs Bob. Bob manfully sorting the wheat from the chaff, based on encounters ranging from speed dates to group dates to - my personal favourite - “romantic overnight adventures”, for semi-finalists only. I held my breath with all the breathless hopefuls in the tear-jerking rose ceremonies. Everything climaxed in the Two Hour Season Finale, where Bob took the finalists home to meet his family, and find the answer to the Big Question. Who would get the ring fit for a lady of the country clubs? Kelly Jo, 24, marketing executive from Kalamazoo, or Estella, 28, mortgage broker from Beverly Hills? Now I know. Estella got her man.
It was so easy to sneer at Bachelor IV. But somehow some of those incredible lines rang true. “All I did was fall in love with you, and there's nothing wrong with that” (Mary, 35, semi-finalist, who got the flick after the Baby Soon conversation). “It's just a lot of pressure” (Bob, grappling with his confusion). “He's been hurt, I don't want him to be scared of opening up to love” (Bob's mom, rooting for Estella). “I want my brother to find true happiness, which he did not have in his first marriage” (Bob's sister Dee Dee). “There's no guarantees in life, and there's no guarantees in love - you never know where it's going to go” (Bob, the fog clearing).
This threw up more questions. Could Bob really have “tremendous feelings” for at least two women at the same time, without also being a shallow, selfish or schizoid pig? Did he reject Mary for reasons beyond her biological clock and his fear of commitment? Could Bob resist the lure of Kelly Jo's décolletage to die for, everything held together by something that looked like a platinum sorority pin? Might he choose neither woman, and no marriage right now, for all the right reasons?
Despite the marital goal, thumpers of the “family values” tub from pulpits or election hustings would have hated Bachelor IV, especially when it looked like Bob was having extramarital sex with multiple partners. They'd be joined by lots of feminists and parents of adolescent addicts of staged-reality TV. Didn't Bachelor IV feed a fantasy that men can be tongue-pashing roosters in a henhouse, and that women should bitch, scratch and manipulate their way to the position of Prima Donna?
But hang on - that's an important part of sexual politics in the real world. Most men do taste as much of as many women as they can get away with before they have to choose, and most women do jostle for male attention by means fair and foul. Men and women do have lots of extramarital sex, and they often interpret fidelity quite differently. Moralisers have never erased those basic facts of life. Feminism didn't either, it just shifted some of the goalposts in terms of timing, style and strategy, and it got more of us talking openly about equality. Which isn't just about relationships between men and women, it's about how women see and treat each other. And in a funny kind of way, the babes and bitches of Bachelor IV were playing on a more level field than lots of real-life women. Sure they competed for Bob and took no prisoners, but no-one pretended it was going to be otherwise. It was sex and videotape, but pretty much without the lies and secrets.
Roll on Bachelorette II. . . and believe me, it will.
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